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Death by Fracking
Posted on Oct 18, 2015
By Chris Hedges
DENVER—The maniacal drive by the human species to extinguish itself includes a variety of lethal pursuits. One of the most efficient is fracking. One day, courtesy of corporations such as Halliburton, BP and ExxonMobil, a gallon of water will cost more than a gallon of gasoline. Fracking, which involves putting chemicals into potable water and then injecting millions of gallons of the solution into the earth at high pressure to extract oil and gas, has become one of the primary engines, along with the animal agriculture industry, for accelerating global warming and climate change.
The Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers who are profiting from this cycle of destruction will—once clean water is scarce and crop yields decline, once temperatures soar and cities disappear under the sea, once droughts and famines ripple across the globe, once mass migrations begin—surely profit from the next round of destruction. Collective suicide is a good business, at least until it is complete. It is a pity most of us will not be around to see the power elite go down.
I met recently in Denver with three of the country’s leading anti-fracking activists: Gustavo Aguirre Jr. of KEEN (Kern Environmental Enforcement Network) in California; Kandi Mossett with the Indigenous Environmental Network and from the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in North Dakota, the second-largest oil-producing state because of hydraulic fracturing; and Shane Davis, a longtime campaigner against fracking and the founder of fractivist.org, a data mining organization that exposes what fracking corporations are doing in communities around the country.
The activists are waging a war against a corporate state that is deaf and blind to the rights of its citizens and the imperative to protect the ecosystem. The corporate state, largely to pacify citizens being frog-marched to their own execution, passes environmental laws and regulations that, at best, slow the ongoing environmental destruction. Corporations, which routinely ignore even these tepid restrictions, largely write the laws and legislation designed to regulate their activity. They rewrite them or overturn them as the focus of their exploitation changes. They turn public hearings on local environmental issues into choreographed charades or shut them down if activists succeed in muscling their way into the room to demand a voice. They dominate the national message through a pliable and bankrupt corporate media and slick public relations. Elected officials are little more than corporate employees, dependent on industry money to stay in office and, when they retire from “public service,” salivating for jobs in the industry. Environmental reform has become a joke on the public. And the Big Green environmental groups are complicit because they rely on donors, at times from the fossil fuel and animal agriculture industries; they are silent about the reality of corporate power, largely ineffectual, and part of the fiction of the democratic process.
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“Forty years after the major environmental laws were adopted in the U.S., and 40 years after trying to regulate the damage caused by corporations to the natural environment and our communities, by almost every major environmental statistic things are worse now than they were before,” Thomas Linzey, the executive director of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, told me recently.
The fracking industry is omnivorous, biologist Davis noted. It “is so intoxicated and bloated by greed that it has moved into our backyards, near our school playgrounds, our hospitals, universities, our day cares, our state parks, our national grasslands, and has its sights on the rest of our public lands across America unless we stop them,” he said.
In writing “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt,” the cartoonist Joe Sacco and I visited devastated “sacrifice zones” where corporate power manipulates judicial and political power, and has free rein to impoverish families, destroy or abandon infrastructure, plunder and pollute the environment and shape the message disseminated by mass communications. Those who organize and resist are met with intimidation and violence from the state and private security firms in the pay of corporations.
Sacco and I wrote the book from the poorest pockets of the United States, including Camden, N.J., the nation’s poorest city, per capita, among those with more than 65,000 residents; the Lakota reservation at Pine Ridge, S.D., where the average life expectancy for a male is only 48 and where at any one time 60 percent of residents have neither running water or electricity; devastated coal fields of southern West Virginia where the tops of Appalachian mountains have been blown off to extract coal seams and the landscape has become a wasteland; and produce fields in Florida where undocumented workers are not only sickened by pesticides but at times are held in bondage and slavery.
The point of the book, whose last chapter takes place in Zuccotti Park in Manhattan during the Occupy movement, is this: These sacrifice zones went first and we are next. We have all become part of a sacrifice zone. It behooves us to understand what unfettered, unregulated corporate power looks like, how it operates and what levels of wholesale destruction it inflicts in the lust for profit on human beings and the environment. If we do not know how corporate power works, and the lengths it will travel to exploit us and the ecosystem, we will not be able to fight it. Both in theological terms and literally, these corporate forces are forces of death.
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